I know from experience that making music is wonderful! And when you have a great vocal track that is recorded correctly under the right conditions, I feel like I’m in heaven because a great vocal track brings everything together and allows the song to shine. But do you need a vocal booth if you want to have a professional vocal recording? Let’s find out!
You don’t need a vocal booth; creating one requires a lot of time and money; also small vocal booths are acoustically problematic. It is possible to create radio-ready recordings without a booth with proper mic placement, a vocal screen, acoustic panels, moving blankets, a pop filter and a good mic.
Reason 1: Vocal Booths Make Your Recordings Sound Worse
I should clarify that in this case, I’m referring to small vocal booths when I say that they make your recordings sound worse. This is because in small rooms, you have added reflections, phase, and distortions effects, and this is something you want to avoid at all cost! To be fair Big vocal booths are suitable for recording vocals, but you must have the luxury of large studio space, and if you are a bedroom producer, chances are you don’t have that luxury.
Reason 2: Vocal Booths Take Time and Are Expensive to Make
Creating a professional vocal booth takes time and money. If you are constructing the vocal booth by yourself, depending on the daily amount of time you can invest, it will take you a couple of weeks and up to a month to create it. The amount of money you will need to invest ranges between $800 and $5000, with $1500 being a fairly realistic expectation.
If you don’t wish to invest so much time and money later on in this article, I will talk exactly about how to achieve professional recording results without the use of a vocal booth.
Reason 3: Correct Mic Placement Is More Important Than a Vocal Booth
Knowing how to correctly place the microphone so that you can capture the sound source in the best way possible is essential. There are three widely used mic placements, Distant miking, close miking, and stereo miking, and I will review all three techniques later in this article.
Reason 4: Having a Vocal Booth Means You Sacrifice Precious Studio Space
If you’re like most producers, you most likely record, produce and mix in one single room, and having a vocal booth means that you will sacrifice precious studio space.
You always want to have your production and mixing place as large as possible; this is because audio frequencies perform better in large areas since there is more space for the audio frequencies to travel. I’m specifically referring to lower frequencies. As a rule of thumb, large long deep rooms will have fewer problems in the lower audio frequency spectrum.
Now, if your room is quite big and you have extra space that allows you to create a large vocal booth that you’ll frequently use, then go for it! But if your space is NOT that big, there are other solutions which we will see later on.
Reason 5: Vocal Booths Need Proper Ventilation
If you want a vocal booth, then proper ventilation is a must. You absolutely need a fan to poor fresh air into the booth and a second fan to poor the hot air out of the booth. This immediately becomes an issue because both fans must be absolutely silent, you don’t want to have a buzzing fan noise on your vocal recordings, this would oppose the use of a vocal booth in the first place.
Reason 6: Vocal Booths Need Proper Lighting
Having enough light inside the vocal booth is also very important. Proper lighting is needed for the artist to read their lyrics while singing, But if the electrical wires are not properly isolated, this can create electric noise to your recordings.
Reason 7: You Can Achieve Professional Results with Other Cheaper and Faster Solutions
There are other much cheaper and faster solutions that you can use to achieve professional recordings in your studio without using a vocal booth. Actually, there are six things that you have to do if you want the best recording results without the use of a booth, let’s explore them right now.
This Is an Overview of the Products You Will Need
Product 1: A Vocal screen.
Use the Monoprice Microphone Isolation Shield (click on the link to check the current price on Amazon).
Product 2: Acoustic Absorption Panels.
Use the BXI Sound Absorber – Acoustic Absorption Panel (click on the link to check the current price on Amazon).
Product 3: Heavyweight Moving Blankets
Heavyweight moving blankets use only the Sure-Max 6 Moving & Packing Blankets – Heavy Duty Pro (click on the link to check the current price on Amazon).
Product 4: A Pop Filter.
Product 5: A Proper Microphone
The Neewer NW-800. This is the best budget mic. Period! (click on the link to check the current price on Amazon) or if you have a larger budget consider a Premium Mic such as the Rode NT1-A (click on the link to check the current price on Amazon).
Do These Six Things to Achieve Professional Recording Results Without a Vocal Booth
There are six things you can do to achieve professional recordings without a vocal booth. These are:
1) for Professional Recordings Adjust the Singer’s Location
Place the singer in the center of the room, far away from walls and other reflective surfaces.
2) For Professional Recordings Use a Vocal Screen
This is a great tool that will automatically make your recording sound much-much more professional! I have tested almost all vocal screens and the one that sounds the best and is also affordable is the Monoprice Microphone Isolation Shield. The Monoprice isolation shield is 1/3 the price of the overpriced sE Electronics Reflexion Filter but does exactly the same job!
Also, keep in mind that the majority of reflection problems come from the same direction your recording in, therefore be careful not to neglect the area behind the singer. You will discover how to do that in a minute, just keep reading. 🙂
3) For Professional Recordings Place an Absorbent Surface Behind the Singer
An absorbent surface behind the singer will minimize reflections. You can use either acoustic absorption panels or moving blankets. As I mentioned above the biggest reflection sound issues, come from the same direction your recording in (from the front and from the back).
Since we’ve got the front of the singer covered with our vocal screen, its now time to adress the reflection issue from the back of the singer to create a 100% professional recording result.
How to Use Absorption Panels
One thing I must mention right of the bat is that absorption panels are used to minimize echoes and not to make a room appear quieter. There’s a big difference between sound treatment and soundproofing. Absorption panels are used for sound treatment meaning your recordings will become more professional with less room-echo.
If the back of the singer is located close to a wall or a corner, place the absorption panels on the wall and in an arc behind the singer around the corner of the room. Doing this will minimize reflections that would normally occur without the absorption panels.
You could go DIY using Rockwool, built a wood frame around them, and wrap them into fabric. This is an inexpensive option, but it’s bad for your health since Rockwool releases small particles that creep up into your longs and can create all sorts of health issues.
What I prefer to use instead are premade budget acoustic absorption panels, you can find the ones I use right here BXI Sound Absorber – Acoustic Absorption Panel (click on the link to check the current price on Amazon).
How to Use Moving blankets
Moving blankets can be a great inexpensive solution to reduce noise and minimize reflections. I recommend this product Sure-Max 6 Moving & Packing Blankets – Heavy Duty Pro (click the link to check the current price on Amazon). because it delivers exceptional results!
NOTE: Please, please, please DONT buy cheap mooving blankets as they will NOT do the job. Yes these are more expensive but they will 100% minimize sound reflections. Please trust me on this one.
Here are two techniques you can use with these moving blankets to minimize reflections and some execs noise when recording vocals in your studio.
A) Use Moving Blankets to Minimize Reflections Technique 1
Another great solution is hanging the moving blankets from the ceiling, forming a circle around the singer minimizing reflections. This technique works like a charm even if you have a small recording space because you can hang the blankets only when you need them and remove them after you’re done.
B) Use Moving Blankets to Minimize Reflections Technique 2
The simplest way to use moving blankets and control the reflection’s behind the singer is:
- Use three boom microphone stands.
- Raise the stands all the way up, transforming them into the shape of a giant “T.”
- Hang the blankets over the stands.
- Place the stands behind the singer.
This is a very simple and portable set up you can use to minimize reflections when recording vocals inside a large room.
4) for Professional Recordings, Use a Good Microphone.
I recommend the Neewer NW-800 (click on the link to visit Amazon); this is the best cheap microphone you can buy for under $30! If you’re on a tight budget, look no further because this mic will blow you away and is much better than a lot of other expensive mics!
Note: If you’re recording scream vocals, purchase the Rode instead (mentioned bellow) since the Rode will perform better at very low or scream vocals.
If you have a few dollars more to spend, I recommend the awesome Rode NT1-A (click on the link to visit Amazon). This microphone is incredible for almost any vocal situation! You can record awesome rap, pop and even scream vocals with it. Keep in mind that you will most definitely need a pop filter, but if you purchase this microphone from the link, I provided the pop filter is included.
5) For Professional Recordings Use Correct Mic Placement and Recording Distance
Most recording tutorials talk about which types of microphones to use, but what’s even more important than the kind of mic is the mic placement, meaning where you place the mic in regards to the sound source.
Try and experiment with whatever type of microphone you have, whether it’s your smartphone’s mic, a USB microphone, a condenser, or a dynamic microphone. If you don’t have a mic or you wish to upgrade, scroll up to read my mic recommendations.
To get you started, I will give you an overview of three popular microphone placement techniques:
A) Mic Placement-Distant Miking: This technique involves placing your microphones about three or 4 feet away from the singer; this enables you also to capture some of the sound of the room. Meaning that if your room has a lot of reverb, your recording will also have a lot of reverb in it.
B) Mic Placement-Close Miking: When we use close-miking, we place the microphone within a couple of feet of the sound source. This is the technique you’ll use more often because it captures 90% of the sound source and only 10% of the sound of the room.
Even if you use the close mic technique, I still recommend you use a microphone isolation shield and absorption panels or moving blankets to minimize refections. We explored these options above, where I recommended the best products you can use.
C) Mic Placement-Stereo Miking: Lastly, we have stereo miking; in this technique, we use two microphones to capture the same source (left and right), resulting in a stereo field.
This technique can be quite complicated, but it has the advantage of capturing a very natural stereo image. I know for a fact this is the technique you will not (and should not) use almost at all, at least not before you’ve built up a decent amount of recording experience.
PRO TIP: Microphone Distance Trick
When you’re recording your vocals using the close mic technique, You want to maintain a proper distance between your mouth and the microphone. A great trick to use is to simply extend your thumb and pinky finger, the distance between the two (about 11-12 inches) is the distance you should keep between yourself and the microphone.
6) For Professional Recordings Use a Pop Filter
Pop filters are necessary if you want to achieve the best result possible, what they do is they minimize the impact of the “P”, “S” & “B” sounds. Having a recording full of harsh P’s, S’s and B’s can be quite annoying! This is an issue that we experience more with condenser and ribbon microphone; dynamic mics don’t suffer from this problem as much. You can use either the Nady MPF-6 or the Neewer Professional Microphone Pop Filter (click on the links to check the current price on Amazon).
Consider a Vocal Booth Only in the Following Scenarios
At this point, I should highlight that the primary use of a vocal booth is to isolate external sounds, and the primary advantage of a vocal booth is sound separation.
Therefore, you should consider a vocal booth if you live in a very noisy area, and even when you close all doors and windows, you can still hear unwanted noises in your recordings.
You should also consider a vocal booth if you want to go 60’s style and plan to record in the studio simultaneously with a full band. In the past, music bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, or The Rolling Stones all recorded in one room at the same time. This, of course, forced them to have a separate vocal booth for the singer and also sometimes a separate booth for the drummer.
Today in the digital age, we have the luxury to record each instrument separately and combine them later on in a single track.
Lastly, you should consider creating a vocal booth if you are building a high-end professional studio for bands to record their music.
Just to clarify, you don’t need a vocal booth to create high-quality music. But if you are constructing a high-end professional recording studio and you have the added space and budget, then opt for a proper large vocal booth with a window in the middle to be able to communicate with the singer easily. This is the norm in big studios.
Don’t waste money on a vocal booth unless you are building a professional recording studio, have the budget, the time, and know what you’re doing. As I mentioned before, you should also have a fairly large studio space that allows you to create a large vocal booth.
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See you around, and God bless.